MIAMI DOLPHINS (9-8)
EXPECTATIONS: The Dolphins have a roster built for contention, and they're targeting a deep postseason run after losing to Buffalo in last season's wild-card round. They just need to stay healthy. Miami brought back essentially every key contributor from last year's offense, which finished sixth in total offense and second in yards per play. Now, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and explosive receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle have one year in Mike McDaniel's system under their belts. The Dolphins showed their confidence in Tagovailoa by picking up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, and he has been training in the martial art jiu jitsu to better protect himself on the field after being diagnosed with two concussions last year. The Dolphins are also transitioning to a new defense under Vic Fangio. They traded for All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, but an injury during training camp will sideline him through the start of the regular season. Miami has plenty of talent on that side, which features veteran cornerback Xavien Howard, safety Jevon Holland and linebacker Jaelan Phillips. Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has not participated in team drills during training camp as he seeks a new contract.
NEW FACES: Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio, CB Jalen Ramsey, LB David Long Jr., WR Robbie Chosen, WR Braxton Berrios, S DeShon Elliott, QB Mike White, TE Eric Saubert, CB Cam Smith, RB De’Von Achane, LB Malik Reed, P Jake Bailey.
KEY LOSSES: TE Mike Gesicki, QB Teddy Bridgewater, P Thomas Morstead, WR Trent Sherfield, LB Elandon Roberts, S Eric Rowe, Edge Melvin Ingram, OT Greg Little.
STRENGTHS: Wide receiver and defense. The passing attack should be poised for another dominant season, and Hill said he's eyeing a 2,000-yard campaign after finishing 2022 with 1,710 yards receiving. Fangio is one of the best defensive minds in football and will revamp a talented unit that struggled in 2022. Miami will swap out the aggressive, blitz-heavy approach it employed in recent years for one that creates turnovers through different types of disguises.
WEAKNESESS: Offensive line. There's an unresolved battle at left guard. Liam Eichenberg, who started there last season, has been limited with an undisclosed injury, and Robert Jones, who is also vying for that spot, has an MCL sprain. Right tackle Austin Jackson has a lot to prove after battling an ankle injury last year. Veteran left tackle Terron Armstead is one of the most valuable players on the Dolphins roster, but he battled various injuries in 2022 and is not 100% after suffering a lower-body injury in practice.
CAMP DEVELOPMENT: The backup quarterback competition between Mike White and Skylar Thompson has been the most significant one of camp, and it hasn't been solidified. Both White and Thompson struggled in the preseason opener against Atlanta, but Thompson bounced back to throw three TDs against Houston the next week. White entered the NFL's concussion protocol during that game, adding another dilemma to the battle. There is no timeline yet for White's return.
FANSTASY PLAYER TO WATCH: Speedy rookie RB De'Von Achane figures to be a perfect fit for McDaniel's offense and will likely immediately see a role as a receiver out of the backfield. He will be third on the depth chart behind Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson, but Achane has had a solid camp and preseason. He's nursing a shoulder injury after a defensive lineman fell on him against Houston, but McDaniel said he is week to week and avoided anything severe.
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK SAYS: Win Super Bowl: 21-1. Over/under wins: 9 1/2.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl
The Associated Press